If you grew up Latino, you may recall your grandma or
While some dismiss these practices as mere superstitions, others stand by their legitimacy one hundred percent. Panquetzani (whose name means "lifter of banners" in Nahuatl) is a firm believer of her work as a practitioner of Mexican folk healing because growing up as an indigenous child, it was simply all she knew. Now, Panquetzani guides women to better reproductive health with her Long Beach-based business, Indigemama. Panquetzani is also advocating for the protection of indigenous practices from cultural appropriators.
OC Weekly: When did your exposure to indigenous healing begin?
Panquetzani aka Indigemama: One of my earliest memories is my grandmother giving me a
What I didn't know at the time was that when you break plants on a person's body, you're actually breaking up the cell wall of the plant and you're releasing the plant's volatile oils which have actions on the person's body. My body was having an allergic reaction, so the slapping of the
How did you learn to practice Mexican folk medicine?
Coming from an uncut lineage of healers, Mexican traditional medicine, and
How did you retain what you learned?
I think a lot of our parents and grandparents still hold onto a lot of Mexican traditional medicine but the wide generational leap prevents us from sharing it and to learn from our elders. My grandma spent so much time teaching me these things. She was a Spanish teacher and very into Mexicanidad (Mexican pride) so she thought
How did your business, Indigemama, start?
In 2007, I became pregnant with my first son and I started realizing that natural healing isn't a part of my friends' cultures. I saw the strongest women having horrible, traumatic hospital births, not breastfeeding, not baby wearing, and having a really hard time with parenting and childbirth. Nobody was talking about it. So I used my voice and said "Hey, this what I'm doing for my pregnancy. This is how I'm taking care of my body." and folks listened to my advice and they wanted more and they brought their friends. In 2008, I took a doula training, which was
Do you feel that indigenous healing is becoming non-existent?
A lot of folks think indigenous healing is running out or it's not present anymore, but it's almost like people are blind to it because it's so ingrained in our culture. Most Mexican families know that when you have a tummy ache you take some chamomile tea. Oregano in
Do you think foreigners are trying to preserve the culture of indigenous medicine or exploit it?
It's sad because I feel like a lot of white people
Can indigenous people trademark their practices too if foreigners are doing so?
If our practice were the norm then there wouldn't be any need for copyrighting. You wouldn't trademark menudo—you can't trademark something that is so ingrained in the culture. Instead of trademarking I'd rather see popularization of the medicine so that there is no need for copyrighting.
Are there aspects of Western medicine that contradict or supplement indigenous healing?
I feel that indigenous and Western medicine can definitely work together. For as long as Western medicine has an ethnocentric perspective, that perspective is "Oh it's just old indigenous medicine—an old wive's tale." As long as they have that mentality, then, there won't be any building bridges. Historically, our medicine has been repressed and that's one of the reasons why I feel so privileged to know the work and to pass the work that I'm doing because people shed blood for practicing these types of therapies. That doesn't just go away in a few generations. There's still a subtle inferiority complex and there is fear. For example, I cannot say the name of the woman who taught me because she fears that one day they'll break into her house and say that she shouldn't be doing what she's doing because it's not legitimized in the Western world.
And so there's a lot of fear around it and that's also something I personally struggled with and that's why I did my work for free, and by donation, and for very little pricing for many years, and why I didn't advertise myself as a business for so long. That's something I have to get over if I'm interested in preserving these traditions. I was born to my grandmother for a reason. And I was born at this time and this year for a reason, and I need to own that and walk without fear so I can help folks and help preserve this method of healing.
What are the most common issues women face with their reproductive system?
Generally, I believe people think their womb is a quiet organ that they only pay attention to during menses or pregnancy and the rest of the time it's just dormant but that's not true. The uterus is working for you 24-7. The uterus is having a contraction up or a contraction down, sustaining your viscera, it's connected to the 23 different muscles in your pelvic floor, it also moves during orgasm and helps you experience pleasure, it's important for hormonal regulation.
What's an issue women of
I could not find a doula of color in all of Los Angeles—my grandmother ended up being my doula. I needed a doula so I became one. Little by little there have been more birth workers of color. In 2009, I helped found Ticicalli Yahualli ("House of the Healers," in Nahuatl), an indigenous birth worker collective. I wanted to make sure women in my community never felt the way that I felt because it was a horrible feeling. I wanted to go against the grain and I did not have the support, the infrastructure, or the community around for what I really wanted to do. So, I created what I felt that I needed at that time.
What's your clientele like?
My services are for everybody, but I focus on women because I feel that women are the pillars of the family and the community. I feel like if I help to educate women they'll educate their family and community. I see a lot of women for menstrual imbalances, PMS, infertility, post-partum, and women who just want to practice self-care and want to keep their wombs in alignment. With Western culture, a lot of our traditions have been taken away with colonization and industrialization. With Indigemama, I've been able to bring these practices back and offer these services to folks who don't have
For more information, visit indigemama.com